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Police make arrests after army reservist Ottawa anti-vaccine basket. leads in

Police arrested four people in downtown Ottawa on Thursday after a Canadian Army reservist previously charged with speaking out about COVID-19 vaccine requirements led a procession into town and delivered a speech about “freedom” to an enthusiastic crowd of about 1,200 supporters.

James Topp was charged in February with two charges of defamation of good order and discipline for comments he made while wearing his uniform and has since led a four-month march to the capital from Vancouver.

His march was supported by many of the same figures involved in the Freedom Convoy that grunted downtown Ottawa for weeks until police used force to end what they and the government described as an illegal occupation.

Not long after Topp’s comments, police said they were responding to a “situation” in the area and arrested four people for incidents including assaulting police officers. A cop was seen pouring water into his eyes while a woman nearby yelled at police and used pepper spray.

In a tweet, Ottawa Police said they are investigating the incident, including viewing video. The initial investigation found that an interaction with an officer became confrontational and choked an officer.

But at the same time, members of the crowd continued to merrily walk around and line up to have their picture taken with Topp. Tourists and families also walked past the scene and seemed puzzled as they snapped photos of the war memorial.

As the sun set, some protesters set off fireworks as officers watched.

The arrests capped a day of activity in the capital as protesters held their first scheduled events of the Canada Day weekend.

Crowd visits Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Topp’s arrival in the capital and the promise of another round of protests starting on Canada Day have put residents on edge. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and the city’s interim police chief Steve Bell have pledged to crack down on any illegal activity.

Cheers and chants of “Freedom!” erupted when Topp arrived at the National War Memorial on Thursday evening. He knelt, weeping, with his hand on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before speaking to the crowd, thanking them for their support and urging them not to give up.

“I met thousands of people on my journey from Vancouver to Ottawa and many of them have lost hope. They feel lost. They are angry. They have lost faith in the system. We have already started something,” he says. said.

‘Heed the call. Gather together. Organize yourself. Plan. What is the answer? non-violence. Peace.’

A long line of protesters, including at least one in a black armored vest, wound through the park.

Earlier Thursday, conservative candidate Pierre Poilievre joined the final leg of Topp’s march. Poilievre walked past Topp for about half an hour west of downtown Ottawa, where hundreds of people had gathered to see the Army reservist.

A man is held on his stomach during his arrest in Ottawa on Thursday. (Radio Canada)

The video of the meeting shows Poilievre expressing his opposition to vaccine mandates and Topp citing a famous quote from then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker about being a “free Canadian” when he signed Canada’s Bill of Rights in 1960.

The two also spoke about the divisions within Canada, with Poilievre saying: “People are desperate for hope. I think it’s time to put this country back together, heal the wounds and reunite our country.”

A few hours later, hundreds of people gathered in a park south of downtown Ottawa for the final stretch to the National War Memorial.

At one point, the crowd was treated to a speech by a man in a military beret and civilian clothes denouncing Defense Chief General Wayne Eyre’s order that all members of the Canadian Forces be fully vaccinated. Members of the crowd cheered loudly.

Police on motorcycles.
Police presence has increased around Parliament Hill ahead of Canada Day celebrations and anti-mandatory protests in Ottawa on Thursday. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

Poilievre’s appearance with Topp comes as the alleged frontrunner of the conservative leadership is accused of unabashedly collaborating with anti-vaccine protesters and other groups associated with the Freedom Convoy.

Tamara Lich, a leader of the convoy that ran aground on Ottawa in February, briefly appeared in court on Thursday after she allegedly violated one of her bail conditions. Lich, who faces multiple charges, including mischief and obstruction of the police, remains in custody until her bail hearing on Tuesday.

Many protesters refused to be interviewed, not trusting that their words would not be twisted.

But Ottawa resident Richard Gervais, who was among the hundreds of people who marched along the Rideau Canal into downtown Ottawa, called Topp an “inspiration for all of us.”

“Here he is, the most peaceful, the nicest, the most decent human being you could ever want to meet, and he’s walking across Canada to make a point,” he said.

Gervais said his adult son was one of hundreds of federal officials forced to take unpaid leave because he refused to be vaccinated.

Though the demand has since been shelved, “We never know when they’ll be back,” Gervais said. “And we know it can come back in the faintest of excuses.”

Topp has said he has no plans to lead an occupation of the capital, and invited Ottawa police to work with him to facilitate his march through the city.

However, an organizer of a group calling itself Veterans 4 Freedom said in a recent video on YouTube that it plans to set up a semi-permanent camp east of Ottawa called Camp Eagle and have events throughout the summer. to keep in town.

While police have since been able to prevent similar protests from taking over the city, preventing planned demonstrations during Canada Day from spiraling out of control will be complicated by the presence of thousands of people celebrating the holiday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that police are taking responsibility for people’s safety during Canada Day celebrations “very seriously,” while Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford called on those planning to protest in Ottawa to pass the law. to respect.

2 dozen MPs hosted Topp

The charges against Topp relate to two videos posted online over the winter in which the uniformed Army reservist appears and criticizes vaccine requirements for military personnel and other federal employees.

Members of the Canadian Forces are severely restricted in the comments they can make while in uniform, especially when it comes to criticizing government policy, largely to protect the military from any perception of politicization.

His attorney has argued that such restrictions should not apply to policies that personally affect members of the armed forces.

More than two dozen Conservative MPs received Topp and other leading figures in the Freedom Convoy on Parliament Hill last week, posed for photos, pledged their support and listened to a lecture on the alleged dangers of COVID-19 vaccines.

Topp told MPs he was marching in part to have all vaccine mandates revoked, as well as to demand the reinstatement of anyone who lost their job because of such a requirement and compensation for lost wages.

At the same time, he and the others created the specter of civil war by describing the state of the country.

Health Canada says only vaccines that meet strict safety, efficacy and quality standards have been approved for use in the country, and the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines continue to outweigh the risks of the disease. About 85 percent of Canadians have received at least one dose.

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